It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone! ~ “Petra” by John William Burgon, 1845
The very image of Petra, Jordan, has stirred the imagination of people around the world for centuries. Built as early as 312 BC, this magnificent work of art and architecture was already old in the time of Christ. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.”
One of the perks of our location is that Bethlehem Bible College students have close access to so many outstanding historical places in Palestine and Israel, as well as neighboring countries. During the last week of March, BBC hosted a student conference in Jordan, and provided some exciting excursions, including a visit to the magnificent red desert canyon of Wadi Rum; Mount Nebo, from which Moses surveyed the Promised Land; and Petra. Though these sites are located relatively nearby, it was the first time for many of our students to see them.
The trip was organized by Shireen Awwad, the much-beloved Dean of Students, who took great care to provide a very special schedule of events for them. Approximately 39 students were able to make the trip, along with about 6 members of BBC staff and faculty.
In Wadi Rum, the students had lunch in traditional Bedouin-style tents, followed by a devotional that concluded with a quiet time of listening to the silence of the desert for a half hour. The group also enjoyed exploring the red landscape that has been used as a backdrop for many Hollywood movies, particularly those depicting Mars!
At Mount Nebo, the students stood in the footsteps of Moses and surveyed the Promised Land from its elevated heights. On clear days, Jericho, and even Jerusalem is visible from the Mount. The group was also impressed by the sculpture of a bronze serpent that sits atop the Mount, symbolic of the one created by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4–9) and Jesus “lifted up” upon the cross (John 3:14).
The 4-day trip was crowned with visit to the famed Petra. Said Haythem Diek, a teacher at BBC,
“To visit Petra is an adventure; it is like stepping into a movie. After walking through a narrow slot canyon, you suddenly feel that you are beholding an ancient castle. It is like being in ‘The Lord of the Rings’– it is one of the most amazing moments of your life!“
There is more to see in Petra than its crowning glory, the famed Al Khazneh (“the Jewel”), and the group spent a good part of the day exploring the tombs and the ruins of a large amphitheater. Throughout the trip, many students donned the traditional black and white Palestinian keffiyeh, in honor of their heritage, as they climbed red rocks and wandered through canyons.
“I will never forget this trip,” said one of the students. “It makes me proud of where I come from. I am thankful that BBC provides these opportunities for us to appreciate the amazing things to see around here! I feel close to God in the desert.”